Artisan Spirit: Spring 2016

Page 76

work for them. Mecca Grade’s custom malt is not cheap, but O’Donnell and Klann agree that the distinct flavor difference is worth the extra money. That difference comes in large part from the malting process, certainly, but what flavor distinctions come from genetics or terroir? That is the question Dustin Herb, one of Hayes’s graduate students, is trying to answer as part of OSU’s Flavor Project. Herb’s study involves 37 samples of barley grown in three different locations with distinct climate and soil characteristics. Rahr Malting in Minnesota is helping him malt the sample barley in small quantities, which are then brewed at OSU’s pilot brewery and submitted for gas chromatography mass spectrometry and sensory analysis. Right now the tests are on the micro level, but the preliminary data gathered will drive further research at a larger scale, which will hopefully show exactly what flavor contributions barley genetics and terroir have on beer. Seven breweries are supporting the Flavor Project: Bell’s, Deschutes, Firestone Walker, New Glarus, Russian River, Sierra Nevada and Summit. Other large and small-scale maltsters, brewing companies and barley growers are providing financial and in-kind support, too, because for all their different interests, everyone appreciates better beer and whiskey. “We can operate at a lot of different scales and one of the beauties of being a public sector scientist is that we can work with everyone from Anheuser-Busch InBev down to a one barrel brewer,” explains

Hayes. OSU just installed a mini-malter that Scott Fisk will oversee in an effort to quickly malt the sample barley before sending it across the street to the university’s pilot brewery. Alongside the minimalter, OSU is building a malt lab that will provide chemical and sensory analysis of the malt, allowing them to provide a certificate of analysis for each sample. It seems too good to be true: a team of fermentation professors, barley-breeding experts, graduate students focusing on flavor contributions, a mini-malter, malt lab, and a pilot brewery and sensory analysis lab, all on one campus. But it gets better. Paul Hughes, a distillation researcher and professor, who used to direct the brewing and distilling programs at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, just joined OSU to develop and direct their new distilling program, and he is building a pilot distillery, as well. Hayes says this is a perfect opportunity for distillers to participate, especially with OSU’s current research on hybrid crosses of Full Pint and a Scotch whisky favourite, Golden Promise. Distillers could come to the lab, inform the barley selection and malting process, and help to distill and evaluate samples. If feasible, they could also join the brewers in making a tax-deductible donation to the foundation, which generates good press for the distillers, and helps OSU perform the research effectively. “We’d like to know what distillers want,” explains Hayes. “We’d just sit down and have a conversation with them and Paul Hughes and say ‘Wow, we’ve got all these barleys, we can make malts,

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